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What Makes a Trail to Road Running Shoe?

We are often asked for Trail to Road Running shoes. These can also be referred to as ‘hydrid’ shoes. We are talking about a shoe that has the combined properties of a shoe specifically designed for trail running (grip and traction) with the cushioning of a road shoe.  Let’s be honest living in and around Sheffield this makes so much sense.  The question: is a compromise a good idea and what should we be looking for?

So What’s the Difference?

Primarily, the difference between a specifically designed trail and a road shoe is the out-sole and how much harder wearing the upper of a trail is. A running shoe is made up of three parts.

  1. The upper – the slipper like section you put your foot into.
  2. The mid-sole – this is the best that provides the cushioning and protection.  It is made to differing degrees of hardness.
  3. The out-sole – this provides grip and traction between the shoe and the ground.

The key differences between a trail and a road shoe are fairly distinct.

  1. You will find the upper of a road shoe is often softer and more slipper like.  Whereas for a trail shoe the materials used will be more durable to abrasion and much more protective against knocks and bashes. Yes, there can be a small compromise on comfort.
  2. The mid sole on a trail shoe is often firmer than a road shoe as this increases stability. Coupled with a rock plate this also helps in protecting the foot against pointy, sharp objects on the ground.
  3. When it comes to the out-sole, a road shoe is often flatter in profile to provide better contact on man made pavements. Clearly, a trail shoe will have differing degrees of depth to the grip. Studs are more pointed for soft ground and flatter, squarer shapes for dryer condition.  Trail grip has special additives to help grip rock and hopefully to increase the life (wear) of these softer ‘studs’.
What Makes a Good Trail to Road (hybrid) Shoe?

Now that’s a good question and sometimes the lines are pretty blurred.  A road shoe company making a hybrid often keep to their winning formula of prioritising comfort. Trail specific brands look for a more protective approach in the upper. Mid-sole technologies are thankfully extremely similar these days, with the mid-sole cushioning often earring to towards a more protective approach. Many are firmer and some will have that little extra protection by offering a rock plate.  In all cases the out-sole is definitely more open so affording more grip across a variety of terrain. From shallow studs to a grippy tooth-like out-sole, there is a seemingly endless range of options.

In recent years, the slipper (upper) has gone through something of a renaissance. They are definitely more pliable and plush than those from a few years ago. Vinyl overlays help protect the foot and often they are quicker drying and definitely hold less water.

More than anything else, the best hybrid running shoe is the one that is comfortable to wear and fit’s your foot properly.  Above all else, you’ll want to run in your choice.

How Long Should a Hybrid Shoe last?

This really does depend on you! Also, how you look after a pair of shoes will also make a big difference. Shoes that are continually used when wet will not last as long as you would hope as the upper will often fail through no fault of its own.  If you repeatedly run off-trail then again the upper (and stitching) is not designed for this and will take a bashing. Shoes that are continually used on road as opposed to trail will see the grip wear away quicker.  So please do not expect your hybrid shoe to do everything and survive, it won’t!

If you are hard on your shoes then 300 to 400 miles is not unreasonable, whereas those lighter on shoes may see a little over 500 miles of use.  This of course assumes the shoes are not taken to the extreme of their design on a regular basis.

How to Care for your Hybrid (or Trail) Shoe?

Let’s get this one out of the way. Washing machines are a big No-No, as is drying them out right next to a heat source.
To clean your new favorite shoe you should remove the excess mud from the upper with a soft brush or cloth.  Then give them a good rinse with cold water using a decent Footwear Cleaner such as from the Grangers range. This helps protect the fabric and the cleaning agents do not attack the glues that help hold your shoes together. . This is especially a good idea after a trip onto the main trails around the low levels of the Peaks.  Peat is a good way to rot a pair of shoes rather quickly.
In drying them, remove the sock liner and yes, stuff them with newspaper or equivalent.  Air drying them is then the way to go.

To Sum Up…

In conclusion a trail to road running shoe, is a hybrid. A combination of a good road and trail shoe.  Both road and specific trail shoe companies have an offering that will do the job extremely well. With that said if you are planning on more extreme trail running then two shoes, a road and a trail shoe, is the way to go. You will quite simply get more bang for your bucks and economically you should get more life from your shoes.

Here at Accelerate we have plenty of options in this category, available in a variety of shapes for differing feet. Scott, Saucony, Inov-8 and Brooks just to name a few of the brands that have excellent options.  If you would like to find out more about some of the specific ‘Hybrid’ shoes on offer then the ‘A Closer Look – Hybrid Running Shoes Reviewed‘ article has some great suggestions for you. Here we take a look at what we feel is the best value, best new-comer and best for longer runs.

 A Closer Look – Hybrid Running Shoes Reviewed.  Read More Here >>

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